This is a simple story of a simple family trying to slow down this crazy life and enjoy the "moments"...

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Dear Santa…..

Pet peeves.

We've all got 'em.

Things that make us absolutely nutty with barely suppressed almost-rage.

I could make a long monstrous decent list of mine here…but I don't want to expose ALL my neuroses at once.  I'd like people to be nice to me in the Starbucks parking lot when I see them!!

So……I'll limit myself to one.
One that I KNOW several ga-billion other people share with me.

Christmas stuff in the stores before Halloween.

Hold your reindeer horses!!!

By my calculations, there are 55 days between October 31st and December 25.  That's MORE THAN ENOUGH time to decorate and bake and shop and glitter-ize and do anything else you want to do to usher in the Christmas season.

There is simply NO need to scar my delicate senses with images of zombies staggering past poor little Baby Jesus in His manger.

Enough already!

Part of the reason I don't like it is because it makes me feel like I'm somehow "behind" in my holiday preparations.
Part of the reason is I feel we don't get to enjoy Halloween, Thanksgiving and fall-in-general because the focus is already on Christmas.
But I think the main reason is that all of the paraphernalia in the stores has one big purpose:  to make people buy Christmas stuff.
It's all about the commercial-spend-happy-facet of the holiday.

And that facet?  It's my least favorite part of Christmas.

Here are my two truths:
First:  I know and realize and LOVE the fact that Christmas marks a celebration of when God came to earth wrapped up in human skin.
I get goosebumps every single time I read:
Then the angel said to them (the shepherds), 
"Do not be afraid. for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people.  For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.  And this will be the sign to you:  You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger."
And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying:
"Glory to God in the highest,
And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!"
--Luke 2:10-14

I know what this holy holiday really represents….and I LOVE it.

Second:   I love all the "ambiance" of the Christmas season.
It's true.  I love twinkle lights and frosted window panes and shiny ornaments and pine-scented anything.
I'm from the Deep South.  I decorate BIG.
My kids leave their stockings hung with care and put cookies and carrots out for Santa and his reindeer.

There is almost no part of Christmas I don't love.


You see….there is one thing that bothers me every year.
One thing that gives me twinges of conscience and makes me do an inward cringe of yuck.

Buying gifts.

Don't get me wrong.  I LOVE giving people presents!  I do it all year long, in fact.  
It truly does give me great joy and satisfaction in seeing the smile I can put on someone's face when they receive something I've spent precious time and resources picking out for them.

BUT….I don't like facing the fact that the 19.99 I just spent on an apple scented candle could have purchased enough to feed a small family for over a week.

Over the past few years I've tried different things:
I've donated to organizations in people's names.
I've sent funds to purchase cows and rabbits and heifers to feed people in honor of my friends and families.
I've made a larger donation to one organization and given notes to friends/family members explaining that the donation was in lieu of individual gifts.

None of these ideas have quite hit the mark I'm aiming for.
I want to present the people in my life with a little token….something that shows them they are special to me….and that I want to share a gift with them just like God shared with me 2014 years ago.

However….I am all too aware of the thousands of hundreds of millions of people who have true needs.
People whose lives could be changed forever by the money I'm spending on Christmas goodies.

I have a list.
A Christmas List, if you will.

It's a list of organizations that sell really neat things.
Things that I would love to have myself…and can imagine my friends and family getting excited about receiving.
And each of these organizations have a purpose.
Some of them sell goods made by women/children rescued from sex slave operations.
Others have products created by moms and grandmothers struggling to support children in countries where they can't work otherwise.
Several use their profits to support orphanages.
Some of them provide "micro grants" to people in struggling communities so they can start a life-sustaining business.
A few of them use their proceeds to dig wells and supply clean water so people can drink and live safely.

There are lots of options on this list, and lots of super cool products.
I have researched the companies the best I can….and they all seem to be free-trade type organizations.
Most of them are faith-based and pretty loud and proud of their status.  Others are just people-loving and humanity-serving.
Some of them I've ordered from myself and can personally guarantee the amazing quality.
Others I've only heard about…but I would (and will!) order from them this season.

So here is a list I've compiled over the last year.
I pray it makes "shopping with a purpose" an easy option for anyone who might want to give it a try.
Because while it feels really great to put a smile on one person's face….
It feels a whole lot more great to know you have helped someone else out, too.

Sites Who Give Proceeds Back to the Manufactures:
Hand Crafting Justice:  scarves, handmade toys, stationary, pottery, jewelry, indigenous art, home decor, bags and purses
(provides free trade opportunities for women in 20 developing countries around the world)
Beads for Life:  shea products, jewelry, beads, bags and purses, home goods
(to create opportunities for down-trodden women in Uganda to support themselves and their families)
Padhma Creations:  hand knit accessories, Christmas stockings, head bands, clothing
(made by women in SE Asia to support their families)
Rooted in Love:  journals, bags, purses, jewelry, t-shirts, accessories,
(supports fair-trade artisans working in various missionary positions)
Noonday: home goods, bags, headbands, belts, arm warmers, scarves, jewelry, beaded jewelry
(provides fair-trade opportunities for women in developing countries to have sustainable incomes; donates a portion from each trunk show to help adoptive families bring their kids home)
The Mighty River:  beaded jewelry. gorgeous woven trays, bags, aprons
(supports 8 Ugandan female artisans with a fair-trade opportunity; orphan care in Uganda; provides a livestock micro-lending program to women in Uganda)
Krochet Kids: amazing hand-crocheted apparel, hats, scarves, mittens, ties, bags and more
(provide jobs, education and mentoring for poverty stricken people in Uganda and Peru)
Global Girlfriend:  everything.  Seriously.  I have ordered jewelry, skirts, tops, journals…it's all beautiful.
(provides micro-grants to poverty stricken women in Africa to start and sustain their own businesses; uses part of proceeds to supply education to young women in Africa)
Delicate Fortress: baby gifts, bags, PJ pants, jewelry, beaded jewelry,  accessories, bath products, many other unique gift ideas
(provides gainful employment to trafficking survivors around the globe)
Amazima:  beaded jewelry, books, music
(creates income for impoverished women in Uganda)

Sites Who Support Beautiful Causes:
Love41:  beautiful leather bags, leather accessories, clothing
(supports Africa New Life Ministries in Rwanda--which runs an orphanage and sponsorship programs)
Show Hope:  clothing, resources, jewelry
(Steven Curtis Chapman's foundation that helps families fund adoptions)
Lifesong forLife Song for Orphans:  hand knit accessories, Christmas stockings, head bands, clothing
(supports LifeSong for Orphans in areas of adoption, orphan care and foster families)
No41: Bags, burlap bags, aprons, jewelry
(support ins an orphanage and women in the village of Gisenyi, Rwanda)
Olive Tree Promise:  art, clothing, music, accessories, home decor, holiday decorations
(raises funds to assist adoptive families in bringing their children home)
Sevenly:  clothing
(supports a different cause each week)
Visiting Orphans:  coffee, adult and children's clothing, accessories, jewelry
(helps train people to serve and "visit" orphans and widows in 14 countries around the world)
Voices 4 the Voiceless:  beaded jewelry, beaded bags, t-shirts
(provides money to support orphanages in Uganda)
147 Million: t-shirts, bags, jewelry, accessories
(to provide food, shelter and medical care to orphans in Haiti, Uganda, Honduras and the USA)
A21:  jewelry, t-shirts, tote bags
(enables a ministry to rescue sex trafficking victims and provide them a new life)

Sites Where you can Donate in Someone's Honor or Buy Gifts for Someone Across the World:
Gospel For Asia:  I can't say enough about this amazing organization
Watoto:  Raising awareness and providence for orphaned kiddos in Africa.  You can also buy gifts here...
World Vision:  Taking care of "the least of these" all over Africa.  Gifts are also available for purchase..

Please feel free to add your own links in the "comment section" or let me know if you have other ideas to make Christmas giving more global….and please share with anyone you think might like the idea!!

Thursday, October 9, 2014

But but but but but…….

I've been told that I'm something of a Grammar-Police-Lady.
Well…..that's possibly true.
While I can't claim to be right 100% of the time (97.8% is more accurate),
I suppose that my English minor has given me some inclination toward using words properly.

I like words to be used properly.
While I'm not going to bring up the whole "their/they're/there" or "your/you're" debacle….suffice it to say that my kids are oh-so grateful to have me around to edit their English assignments.

Grammar, of course, goes hand-in-hand with punctuation.
My poor daughter has to re-read many assignments when she refuses to stop at "end marks" or to slow down for the commas.
Haven't you seen the T-shirts with "Let's eat Grandma!/Let's eat, Grandma!" joke going around?
(Seriously…life and death matter there….)

In the same vein….I also believe that voice inflection can change meanings just as easily (if not more) then punctuation.

For instance….the word "sorry."
Said contritely…it shows true repentance.
Said loudly….it shows lack or sorrow with some anger.
Said sarcastically….it just asks for irritation.

And my new worst/best word?
Three little letters that pack a WALLOP of meaning.

In my experience it's commonly used as an excuse.
"I want dessert but I don't want to eat my broccoli."
"He called the front seat but I was already there."
"I think you told me, but I forgot."
"We understand you want another latte, but you've had 3 already."

I use that word myself quite often.  If I am requested to do something, my scarily automatic response is:
"I'd like to….but I'm really busy now."
"Sounds like a good idea….but I don't know how."
"That works for other people….but that doesn't apply to me."

Sometimes Occasionally Often I even have that response when I feel God leading me to do something. In these phrases,  mentally put a whiny tone on the word "God."

But God.

But God, what in the world am I supposed to do about 417 million orphans?
But God, apologizing makes no sense!  It's his fault!
But God, I just sat down for some well-deserved "me" time.
But God, I've worked really hard for this break.  Why should I do this work?
But God, I don't feel comfortable around that kind of person.
But God, who would ever care about reading what I write?
But God, it's too embarrassing!
But God, I'm sooooooo tired.  I couldn't do it right anyway.

Excuses.  Complaining.  Demanding my own way.

And some of these are pretty valid issues!  What CAN I do to end world hunger?  It IS embarrassing to do certain things!  I AM flippin' exhausted!

Insert another voice inflection here.  Remove the whiny tone, and say the whole phrase quietly….with a stronger voice for the word, "God."

But God.

I don't know what to do here….but God does.
I don't want to forgive this person….but God does.
I don't have the energy to help anyone….but God does.
I don't understand why I'm doing this….but God does.
I don't have the ability to do this task….but God does.

The word no longer exists as an excuse.
It becomes an introduction to an alternative.

Some things are truly insurmountable or incomprehensible or completely overwhelming for us.
They are literally impossible to achieve.

BUT they are attainable, doable, achievable and right for God to do.

Years ago at my kids' preschool the children were trickling in for a Halloween party.  As parents were driving through the parking lot and kids were running for the building….the unthinkable happened.
A little boy, about 3 years old, ran behind a minivan as it was backing up.
It ran him over with both tires.

Someone ran into the lobby screaming, "CALL 911!"
I ran to the parking lot and found the child laying on his back, tire marks across his little orange pumpkin shirt, not breathing.

He was little.
So little.
The car had smashed his chest.
His lungs had stopped doing what lungs need to do.

He should have been (and possibly was) on his way to heaven right then and there.
(But God….that's not fair!  He's so young!  But God….his mom's not even here to hold him!  But God, it's a party…he was so excited!  But God….it shouldn't be like this!)

But God.

Praying happened.  CPR was done.  Breathing started.

But God….in His wisdom…with his power….could and did save him.
It was nothing we horrified parents could do….but God could.

When we come across that inkling…that strange persistent idea that we are supposed to do a certain something…it may not make any sense at all.  If it's from God though…that idea won't go away.  It will continue to make itself known.
Do we whine, "But Gooooddddd…..that's impossible!  I don't want to! That's crazy!"?

Well…yeah.  We might.
And it might actually be crazy.
It might actually be impossible.

After the pity party has ended however…..maybe we should change our inflection.
But God.
It is hard.  Perhaps humanly insurmountable.  It's uncomfortable and odd.  There will be adversity and it will seem too difficult to imagine.

But God.
But God will do it….and He will let us be a part.
If we just stop making excuses….and realize that His power is a pretty darn good alternative to our own.

And depending on Him instead of ourselves…
That's pretty glorifying to.